Reaching from Heaven
Just as church services are letting out, a shabbily dressed stranger is run over by an automobile in the street. The stranger is aided by the minister and congregation members, who help him regain his self-confidence and also to accept the death of his wife as she was about to embark from Europe, as a displaced person, to join him in America. They help bring his 5-year-old daughter to the United States, and the congregation makes a home for him and his daughter. The young lady who caused his accident, the town banker’s daughter, takes a job to pay for his hospital expenses.
The message in this 1948 inspiring movie release is still relevant today. Presented by the Lutheran Church, and written by Charles Palmer, this movie explores the need for the spiritual life of man to be addressed, through the person of Jesus Christ. Though looking a bit dated in the black and white presentation, and the clothes and cars, nevertheless the timeless good news of the gospel and its transforming power is excellently portrayed by solid acting and a good storyline.
The film opens with a man, who becomes known as the stranger (John Qualen), an immigrant, receiving a telegram that his wife has died. He is distraught and as he wanders into town no one has any time for him. He wanders in front of a church, where the service has just finished. People are filing out and the pastor (Regis Toomey) is being told he delivered a “nice” sermon. The pastor looks at the man’s sleeping baby, and says, “You mean it put him to sleep?” and they laugh. But he had hoped to move people with his message, to reach out to others. As the stranger stands in front of the church, no one comes to him. Then, a seeming tragedy occurs when a woman strikes the man with her car, running over him.
Cheryl Walker plays the woman, named Madeline Bradley. The pastor sees what happens and feels bad that no one spoke to the man. “He’s a human being with a soul,” says the pastor. An ambulance is sent for. Bill Starling, a member of the church (played by Leave it to Beaver’s Hugh Beaumont) is concerned for the man and plans to follow up on how he does following this tragic accident. A police officer tells Madeline that it wasn’t her fault, but she feels responsible and wants to pay for the man’s medical expenses.
The movie does have some lighter moments to break up the seriousness of the plot. For example, Madelines’s mother Kay is looking at a magazine and makes the comment, “I would think they could leave the skirt length the same for a month or two!”
Madline explains to her mother and dad that the accident happened in front of a church. Her father, Max, owns a construction company and states that church was shoved down his throat three times a week when he was a boy. He has no interest in church or attending-at least for now.
With the stranger still unconscious, Madeline takes a job with her dad’s competitor, Walt Graves, in order to make money to help pay the stranger’s medical bills. She calls him “Uncle Walt.” She gets to know Bill Starling, a supervisor for Walt Graves’ company, and he works on her spiritual life, sharing the good news of Jesus and how everyone has sinned and needs the Lord. The stranger finally awakens and learns from another telegram that his daughter, Anna, is all right and will be leaving Portugal to soon join him. The church pulls together and decides to renovate a room in the top of a house so the stranger and his daughter can live there.
Bill and Madeline are attracted to one another, and Bill invites her to church. She is hesitant, still trying to figure out what she believes about God. In a powerful scene Walt, a believer, helps his competitor Max when Max finds a tire on his car has gone flat. Bill deals with an employee named Buck, who makes fun of his faith. He tells Bill that Sunday mornings are bad for his hangovers. But later, when Bill risks his life to save Buck, Buck begins to see things in a different light.
The stranger has a talk with the pastor and admits that he has lived his life doing wrong things, such as stealing and lying. He believes that God must be ashamed of him. He feels like Jesus wouldn’t need him. “He wanted the thief on the cross,” the pastor tells him. He sees the light and believes in Jesus’ love.
Margaret Hamilton (the witch in The Wizard of Oz) is in the film and has a funny scene in which she shows a few people that she knows how to dance. She loses faith in Madeline, when she believes Madeline purposely causes a problem for Walt’s construction business, but she changes her tune when she sees the sincere grief Madeline has for the mistake she made.
The stranger and Anna are overwhelmed when they learn the church has given them a place to live, and the stranger is hired to be the church custodian. This movie does a terrific job in showing how love and kindness can be very effective witnessing tools for the cause of Christ.
Although the film isn’t targeted toward young kids, it is a wholesome film with minor content issues (such as a man briefly smoking) and it has earned our Dove seal for All Ages. Even Madeline’s parents change their hardened hearts toward church and God.
The Dove Take
This movie can be a valuable witnessing tool in showing Christians how displaying the true love of Christ can change lives.